A look at the Produced by Conference 2011

Posted By Ed Heede on June 22, 2011 09:40 am | Permalink
BURBANK - The Produced by Conference (PBC) confab is a three-year-old "educational forum" and gathering of media pros across film, TV and Web. It took place on the Disney Burbank Studios lot June 4 and 5. PBC was co-sponsored by the Producers Guild of America (PGA) and the Association of Film Commissioners International (AFCI).

On the producers' side, the show was chaired by notables Gale Anne Hurd, Vance Van Patten (PGA chair), Rachel Klein and Marshall Herskowitz. More traditional studio machine producers such as Harvey Weinstein (The King's Speech), Ian Bryce (Transformers, Spider-Man franchises), Bonnie Arnold (How to Train your Dragon, Toy Story) were there alongside the rather less orthodox and indie side represented by people on the order of Kevin Smith (Red State) and Jason Blum (Paranormal).

Did all the glitter and celebrity value make for an experience worth its time and money? According to attendance figures, would-be producers and creative types from all media walks seemed to say, 'Yes.'

Roughly 2,200 people attended this year, more than double the attendance of last year's show. Clearly the PBC (www.producedbyconference.com) is gaining momentum. That's no small feat in an industry far from immune to a general economy that has seen better days. No doubt PBC success is due to subjects covered at the show ranging anywhere from finance to global distribution, film technology and new media opportunities.

Of more impact to Post readers - cinema and broadcast technology was also addressed via a number of panels.

"The Single-Chip Camera Evaluation" for one, pitted 11 digital cameras head-to-head for an evaluation "to accurately and impartially subject the leading single sensor motion picture cameras to a battery of tests designed to reveal the limits of their performance." All cameras including latest generation Arri, Canon, Nikon, Panasonic, Red, Sony and more were put through a battery of tests at their best available output measuring critical factors such as resolution and exposure latitude. (Tests were conducted non-profit and beholden to no camera maker). Results were not all that surprising. Arri came across as a top performer - at least in the dynamic range category, virtually matching Kodak film stocks at roughly 14 stops with all others bringing up the rear with some response near the 11-stop mark or less. Of course, there is a vast price disparity from something like an Arri Alexa at around $130K (with lenses) to say, a mid-range Sony PMW F3 10-bit camera at about $25K-$50K (with lenses), to a Canon 5D DSLR at near $5K-$10K (with lenses).

Robert Primes, ASC, Josh Siegel and others put together a test very much like this one earlier in the year at NAB. A brief overview of the NAB overview can be seen here:



The proviso for cinema pros is that camera technology is now accelerating quickly over time with big changes and ramifications to be seen within a one-year to two-year horizon. That's good for DPs, producers and indie filmmakers across the board.

Other film technology panels dealt with "Digital Cinema and the New Entertainment Model" where most panel chairs agreed that the entire entertainment model was at a kind of flashpoint where the old 35mm celluloid past was continuing to give way to a purely digital experience from exhibition (already at 50 percent digital screens nationwide) to Video on Demand (VOD). At "The Post Production Ecosystem: Making Smart Business Choices" a valuable if somewhat biased (Avid sponsored) panel on how to shepherd projects through the various workflow paths available to media makers. All focused on the business impact of major issues from file-based workflows to 3D cinema and mastering.

A few key takeaways from the show: an evident challenge yet to be solved by new media opportunities and the consensus agreement from most Disney producers that 3D cinema is not for all films and not necessarily even appropriate for the majority of films - at least from the Disney perspective.

Given its focus, the PBC show obviously catered to producers more than techno media geeks. Even so, it served its audience on a number of levels. An approach that is arguably what any entertainment confab should do. Whether confabs such as PBC serve the target audience as well as they could is subject for further study.

As an example: for a show on entertainment production - and therefore distribution where most content is made to be monetized (or not) - there was no panelist or booth I was aware of at PBC that represented primary source banks or primary lenders to the entertainment trade. As a matter of production education I would personally call that an oversight. But it could be that I'm nitpicking.

On the whole I'd have to say this was a good, well-attended show. Produced By Conference 2011 managed to cover a wide range of critical issues at some depth as it brought together hundreds of film commissions, media supporters, cinema enablers, studio filmmakers and suppliers from the world over. Not an easy act to pull off.